08/08/2022, 19.36
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Crimea, from oasis to 'military base' for Russia’s war against Ukraine

by Vladimir Rozanskij

For Tamila Tasheva, the peninsula has become “the land of unfreedom” and increased “persecution” of activists. Today it is a “logistical rear” for the conquest of other territories in Ukraine. Russia’s demographic presence is growing in parallel with the exodus of Ukrainians victims of “forced emigration”. The issue of passports remains unresolved.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – In an interview with Krym.Realii, the well-known humanitarian and activist Tamila Tasheva sounds the alarm over the fate of Crimea.

Born in Uzbekistan, where her Crimean Tatar family had been deported by Stalin's regime, Tasheva returned to her homeland, only to flee after Russia’s annexation.

Today she is the Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and for years was involved in defending the rights of the inhabitants of Crimea with her organisation Krym SOS.

Tasheva laments that "from a tourist region, which the Russians were showcasing, Crimea has now become only a military base, playing a crucial role in the assault on the Ukrainian motherland.”

Since Russia’s annexation in 2014, activists like Tamila have decried this situation in every international venue, illustrating Moscow's huge financial investments in infrastructure development in Crimea, starting with the Kerch Bridge, a project linked to military, not economic or social aims, now protected with a huge deployment of forces.

According to Tasheva, "Crimea has become the land of unfreedom, and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the persecution of activists has increased, including the use of torture and other forms of state-sponsored violence.”

Today the peninsula is a “logistic rear” from which Russia can occupy other territories. Today it is Ukraine, tomorrow it may be Georgia and elsewhere.

About 150 km away, the drawn-out battle for Kherson is underway, the effects of which are felt in Crimea. In fact, there is the risk that the war might come directly to the peninsula, which the Ukrainians pledge to retake along with the Donbass.

“We advise local residents to flee their land only to avoid being drafted into the Russian army, which is what happened to 34,000 residents. It is well known that the Russians like to throw newly enrolled soldiers from peripheral territories into the front line,” Tasheva explains. Among the war dead, many are Crimeans.

“For us,” she adds, “it is very important that Ukrainian citizens remain to live in Crimea.” In fact, Russia is not only looking for fresh forces to send to the front, but has pursued a policy of colonisation and “ethnic replacement” in recent years.

The “Russian-speaking majority” that voted 93 per cent for annexation was more of an illusion created by the occupying troops that invaded the peninsula in 2014, after which they conducted a referendum on annexation shouting, “Crimea is ours!”

According to some estimates, between 500,000 and 700,000 Russians have already moved to the Simferopol area (known in antiquity as Chersonesus, in honour of which the city of Kherson was named), and the ports of Yevpatoria, Balaklava, Feodosia, and Yalta.

According to unofficial estimates, between 50,000 and 100,000 Ukrainians were forced to leave after 2014, a trend that has accelerated in recent years.

Not everyone managed to flee to Ukraine; those who stayed behind soon faced the problem of identity papers. Although they would like a Ukrainian passport, they are de facto stateless and it is not easy to prove their identity in such a chaotic situation.

In Ukraine the government set up the Ministry for the Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, which includes Crimea; it advises Ukrainians in occupied areas to refuse the Russian passport, often forced upon them.

This is deemed a violation of human rights under international law creating victims of violent "passporting”, hostages of a brutal occupation that is sending Crimeans to the slaughter to assert Russian power.

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